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A Midwinter God: Encountering the Divine in Seasons of Darkness

Author: Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE, OBLSB
Ave Maria Press
Publication date:
September 13, 2024


“I believe we all carry grief that has gone unnamed and unmourned,” writes best-selling author Christine Valters Paintner. “Nothing in our culture prepares us to deal with darkness and grief. We are told to cheer up and move on, to shop or drink our way to forgetting the pain we carry. Yet I believe that being faithful to our own dark moments is the path of true prayer.” In her book, A Midwinter God: Encountering the Divine in Seasons of Darkness, Paintner offers an invitation to enter the wisdom of holy darkness and to find there a path toward hope and spiritual maturity.

Paintner has experienced multiple journeys through grief that have brought her face-to-face with what she calls the “midwinter God”—the seeming absence of the God of life in dark and fallow seasons of loss. She has learned to confront her own terror in that darkness and to approach it with curiosity to see what it has to teach her. This endeavor has illuminated a path for her to embrace a life of profound depth, one that honors both the trials of suffering and the richness of joy.

With her characteristic integrative and creative practices, Paintner, abbess of the online Abbey of the Arts, guides her readers to view darkness as a place where seeds of holiness begin to germinate. Each chapter of this book unfolds as an invitation to grow in understanding of holy darkness and also meditate, reflect, and create with these elements:

  • Paintner’s reflections on various themes of loss and acceptance
  • Insights on a scripture passage written by Paintner’s husband, John
  • A guided meditation to bring the teachings into your heart
  • Prompts for an expressive arts practice to process these insights through creativity
  • Reflection questions to integrate what you have experienced
  • Writing samples from people who have worked through this material in an online retreat


Autumn and winter are vital to the health of nature and to our own bodies. It is a time of releasing and letting go—a season that invites us to slow down, to welcome the growing darkness, and to grow stiller and quieter. Darkness can be an uncomfortable and uneasy place, but it is also a place of profound incubation and gestation, a source of tremendous and hard-wrought wisdom. With Paintner as our guide, we can encounter this midwinter God with vulnerable courage that leads us to hope-filled wholeness.

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Praise for the Book

There is no shortage of spirituality books on overcoming difficult times, but there are perilous few that teach us how to look such times squarely in the face, trusting Wisdom to have her way. A Midwinter God is the latter, and what a gift it is. I absolutely loved this book.
Shannon K. Evans
author and spirituality editor at the National Catholic Reporter
Christine Valters Paintner’s A Midwinter God brings her distinctive gift for creating a retreat in written form to a vital and important theme: finding the Divine presence in the midst of the dark seasons of our lives. In doing this, she stands squarely in the tradition of the greatest Christian mystics, who taught that darkness, unknowing, and mystery can serve as profound initiations into spiritual healing and wisdom. This is a book to pray—and to savor.
Carl McColman
author of The New Big Book of Christian Mysticism
Christine Valters Paintner is a gentle and nurturing guide into the spiritual darkness that lies within each of us, encouraging us not to rush past our pain but to accept the invitation to dwell in its depths and find nourishment there. With thorough research, personal wisdom, and embodied practices, she leads us with compassion and curiosity into a midwinter that is warmed by the light of a loving God.
Cameron Bellm
author of A Consoling Embrace: Prayers for a Time of Pandemic